Anime characters can develop in all kinds of ways, and many of those developments are creative, interesting, and rational. But sometimes an anime character disappointingly gets nerfed for no reason.
Well, of course there's a reason: for the benefit of another character—usually the main protagonist—so they can emerge victorious. But as far as a valid in-world reason? There's usually none.
To be fair, we understand why it's done. When a previously powerful character is suddenly weak by comparison, it really emphasizes how much a character has grown. The thing is, it needs to be done well. If the change is too sudden, it's jarring and hard to believe.
Here are some of the worst examples of once-powerful anime characters who were inexplicably nerfed for whatever reason.
7. Pikachu (Pokemon)
Why is this cute Pokemon on our list? Well, unlike some anime characters, Ash's Pikachu has been nerfed multiple times!
The first one isn't a traditional nerf but a preemptive nerf: despite all the time they spent together, Ash's Pikachu has never evolved into Raichu. Pikachu even rejected a Thunder Stone offer. Why? Because Pikachu is the mascot and needs to remain cute!
But more egregiously, whenever a new main Pokemon is introduced in the anime series, you know Pikachu is going to lose his fight—so the new Pokemon can step in and finish for the team. Pikachu deserves so much better than that!
6. Bluenote Stinger (Fairy Tail)
Bluenote Stinger was a high-caliber mage in Fairy Tail who could go head-to-head with Fairy Tail's top mage, Gildarts Clive. He even possessed the ability to control gravity, which is one of the more unique and powerful abilities in the anime world.
But for narrative purposes, he was used as a scale to emphasize Natsu's own development: a single Fire Dragon's Roar was enough to defeat him and burn him down. Not only that, but his gravity magic also had no effect on Natsu!
5. Son Gohan (Dragon Ball Z)
During the Cell Games Saga in Dragon Ball Z, Gohan surpassed many characters—including Goku, Vegeta, and the rest of the gang—after he used his emotions to awaken his latent powers.
That was a truly badass character moment, so much so that even Goku stated that Gohan was the only one who could potentially defeat Cell. And he did! That's how strong Gohan became.
But in subsequent arcs, Gohan was reduced to nothing. He should've been more powerful than any other character and he should've grown even stronger since he was still young, but no. What a waste.
4. Sosuke Aizen (Bleach)
As the main antagonist of Bleach, Sosuke Aizen needs to be the biggest and baddest opponent. He certainly was for a time, to the point where he got rid of the Captain of Soul Society and defeated the rest (including the Visoreds) without breaking a sweat.
But in front of Ichigo, Aizen is no more than just another monologuing villain. Even in his true form, his attacks barely scathe Ichigo—and he was defeated with a single strike: the Mugetsu.
His end doesn't fit the plot and character developments beforehand, given that his schemes started long before Ichigo ever became a Soul Reaper and how much he influenced all major events of the series.
3. Levi Ackerman (Attack on Titan)
In Attack on Titan, Captain Levi Ackermann was the master swordsman who dominated every mission against the encroaching Titans. He's fast, he's agile, he's a legend who's never at risk when he's fighting, and he was even able to take down the Beast Titan.
For whatever reason, the plot made him victim to an explosion that left him bedridden and disabled, with missing digits on his hand.
Credit is due to the anime series for being willing to permanently nerf one of its star characters, but it's a disappointingly empty way to remove a powerful character from the action.
2. Uchiha Sasuke (Boruto: Naruto Next Generations)
We all saw how godly the Rinnegan was in Naruto Shippuden, as the Rinnegan was the capstone to all the eye-jutsu power creep. In Naruto Shippuden, the Rinnegan literally had god-like powers. In Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, it's comparatively trash.
Uchiha Sasuke, who is the sole user of the Rinne Sharingan, should be insanely overpowered since he possesses the very first ancestral eye that started with Kaguya Otsutsuki. Unfortunately, in Boruto, he never uses it to its full potential.
Sasuke has really only been using the eye's place-swapping ability, plus occasional uses of Chibaku Tensei. What happened to all the cool Rinnegan powers showcased by Pain, Nagato, and Madara?
1. Uzumaki Naruto (Boruto: Naruto Next Generations)
Boruto is about the next generations, and the story can't move in that direction if it stays stuck on Uzumaki Naruto. Because of that, Naruto—much like Sasuke—ends up being severely nerfed.
The thing is, Naruto frequently uses his Tailed Beast Mode, the same transformation he uses during the war in Naruto Shippuden. Back then, he decimated everything. Now, in Boruto, he's easily beaten up, stabbed, and immobilized all the time.
Boruto needed a power creep reset, but the way Naruto (and Sasuke) was nerfed makes no sense and it's an insult to the world's lore. Fans expected a lot more from the duo when Boruto was announced, and so far the results have been lackluster.